Mikhail Trilisser

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Mikhail Trilisser
Born Meier Abramovich Trilisser
April 1, 1883 - 2 February 1940
Died February 2, 1940(1940-02-02) (aged 56)
Cause of death
Other names Mikhail Aleksandrovich Moskvin, Moskvin, Mikhail Aleksandrovich Moskvin
Occupation intelligence officer
Years active 1901-1938
Employer Cheka, GPU, OGPU, NKVD
Agent Cheka, GPU, OGPU, NKVD
Known for role in the "Trust"
Political party
Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, Bolshevik Party

Mikhail Abramovich Trilisser (Russian: Ме́ер Абра́мович Трили́ссер; Jewish, born Meier Abramovich Trilisser) (1 April 1883, Astrakhan - 2 February 1940), also known by the pseudonym Moskvin (Russian: Москви́н), was a Soviet chief of the Foreign Department of the Cheka and the OGPU. Later, he worked for the NKVD as a covert bureau chief and Comintern leader.[1]


Trilisser was born Meier Abramovich Trilisser on April 1, 1883 in Astrakhan. His father was a shoemaker. He graduated from the Astrakhan city school.



In 1901, Trilisser joined the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party in Odessa and was arrested in the same year for revolutionary activities.[1]

During the revolution of 1905, he was a revolutionary propagandist in Kazan, Petrograd and Finland. In July 1907, the police arrested him, investigated him at length and sentenced him in 1909 to eight years of hard labor. In November 1914 during this sentence, the government sent him into permanent exile in Siberia.[1]


After the February Revolution of 1917, Trilisser served first as editor of the Irkutsk newspaper Voice of the Social-Democrat and then in the military Irkutsk Committee of the Bolsheviks.[1]


In October 1917, Trilisser worked to foil counterrevolutionaries and bandits in Siberia. As the Bolsheviks regained territory in the Far East from the Japanese, Trilisser worked underground in the Russian-Chinese border town of Blagoveshchensk, north of Harbin. After helping form a buffer state, the Far Eastern Republic (FER) or Chita Republic (1920-1922), Trilisser was appointed commissioner of the Amur region.[1]


By 1921, Trilisser was working under Felix Dzerzhinsky in the foreign intelligence department of the Soviet secret police or Cheka. In 1922, he became of the foreign department of the new State Political Directorate (GPU), (later OGPU).[1]

As such, Trilisser played a significant role in the "Trust" operation, among whose achievements were penetration of counter-Soviet and White Russian organizations and the capture and executions of Boris Savinkov and British super spy Sidney Reilly.[1]


In 1926, Trilisser becaume Vice-Chairman of the OGPU.[1]

In October 1929, he was ousted from the foreign department of the OGPU, and was replaced by Artur Artuzov.[2]

In 1930, Stalin had him transferred to the Workers and Peasants Inspection of the RSFSR as deputy commissar.[1]

Comintern and NKVD[edit]

In 1935 he went to work at the Executive Committee of the Comintern.[1]

In the same year, Trilisser was assigned to work as a covert NKVD bureau chief under the guise of a Comintern leader, using the name Mikhail Aleksandrovich Moskvin. Trilisser was assigned various tasks while overseeing the Comintern, including the recruitment of OGPU (later, NKVD) agents overseas and the kidnapping or assassination of various Soviet emigres, Comintern members and other 'enemies of the people'. Another of Trilisser's tasks was to recruit Soviet covert couriers to supply funds, training, and political support to various overseas communist movements deemed sympathetic to the Soviet Union.[2]


In the United States, Trilisser provided Soviet visas for couriers sent to supply funds to a number of American left-wing trade unions, African-American worker organizations, and communist movements, including the CPUSA.[2] In January 1938, at the specific request and recommendation of Earl Browder, head of the Communist Party of the United States, Trilisser gave Max Bedacht, an American Communist Party activist and former unsuccessful New York Senate candidate,[3][citation needed] a Soviet visa and employment as a courier supplying funds to the CPUSA and other communist front organizations. Bedacht soon began traveling between the United States, Europe, and the Soviet Union as a courier, using his official cover as an international delegate for the American Communist Party.[2]

Purge and death[edit]

Arrested in 1938[1] during the Great Purge on fabricated charges, he was executed on 2 February 1940.[citation needed]


In 1956, Trilisser was posthumously rehabilitated during the period of Destalinization.[1]

In 1967, a Soviet adventure TV series Operation Trust (Операция "Трест") was created.[4]

In 1983, his character appears in the final episodes of Reilly, Ace of Spies, portrayed by English actor Anthony Higgins.


  • SVR Trilisser (undated)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Mikhail Abramovich Trilisser". Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation (SVR). 2000. Retrieved 26 January 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d Klehr, Harvey; Kirill Mikhaĭlovich Anderson; John Earl Haynes (1998). The Soviet World of American Communism. Yale University Press. pp. 20 (years 1929–1935), 139–140 (1938). ISBN 978-0-300-07150-4. 
  3. ^ Max Bedacht, the Communist Party candidate for the 1934 New York Senate election, lost the election with 1.23% of votes cast.
  4. ^ IMDb:Operatsiya Trest (TV 1967)

External sources[edit]